When looking to build strength and power, it’s widely recommended to use compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

These generally include variations of the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, and snatch, as well as the clean and jerk.

The dumbbell push press (DPP) is one such movement that includes an explosive hip extension followed by an overhead pressing motion.

This article breaks down the dumbbell push press, including how to perform it, benefits, and variations.

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The DPP is a variation of the traditional barbell push press in which two dumbbells are pressed overhead using momentum generated by your legs.

In the traditional push press, a loaded barbell is used for resistance and pressed overhead in the same fashion.

This is a common exercise used by people doing Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit to complement other areas of their training.

That said, it can be a fantastic movement for building whole body strength and power in all populations.

Summary

The DPP is a variation of the traditional barbell push press in which two dumbbells are pressed overhead using momentum generated by your legs.

The dumbbell push press is a compound exercise that requires the coordination of several muscle groups. As such, it takes practice to perform the movement proficiently, so it’s best to start with a lighter weight to prevent injury.

Here’s a guide on how to perform a DPP:

  1. Select two dumbbells of an appropriate weight.
  2. Start with one end of the dumbbells resting lightly on your shoulders, with your palms facing each other, standing with your feet hip-width apart.
  3. While bracing your core and keeping your back straight, bend your knees slightly, just enough to get some momentum without performing a full squat.
  4. As soon as the knees are slightly flexed, extend your hips and knees simultaneously by driving through your heels while pressing the dumbbells overhead.
  5. With controlled motion, lower the weights back down to your shoulders and prepare for the next repetition.

The goal is to initiate the movement with your legs, then complete the pressing portion with your triceps and shoulders while stabilizing with the muscles of your core.

Take a look at this YouTube video to see how to perform it.

Summary

The DPP is a compound exercise that requires multiple steps to complete. When first trying the movement, it’s best to start with a lighter weight to dial in your technique and avoid injury.

Though the DPP can be an effective exercise, you may also want to try other variations — depending on the equipment you have available.

  • One-arm DPP. The movement is performed in the same way, though only one dumbbell is used. This requires more core stability, considering that the single dumbbell tends to put you off balance.
  • Landmine press. One side of a loaded barbell is anchored, and the other side is grasped with one arm and pressed overhead. This similarly requires a lot of core stability while relying less on momentum from the lower half of your body.
  • Kettlebell push press. This movement is similar to the DPP, except that kettlebells are used for resistance. It can also be performed with just one kettlebell, similar to the one-arm DPP.

These variations mimic the same movement pattern but differ slightly, allowing you to use different sides of your body, alternate how much power is generated from your lower body, and experiment with different types of equipment.

Summary

There are several DPP variations that use different types of equipment and positions, though the movement pattern remains similar.

While the DPP is an effective exercise for developing strength and power, it puts your shoulder joint in a vulnerable position and requires explosive movement at the hip and knee joints.

As such, those with preexisting shoulder, hip, or knee injuries should proceed with caution if performing the DPP.

Plus, regardless of injuries, it’s advisable to start with light dumbbells and slowly progress until you can safely handle heavier weights.

Ultimately, the two factors that are most important in preventing injury are proper form and core stability.

Therefore, take the time to develop proper form before pushing yourself and advancing to heavier weights. When doing the movement, keep your core tight throughout to protect your spine and keep the shoulder joints stable.

And, as with any exercise, speak with your healthcare provider or a personal trainer before starting a push press or similar strengthening regimen if you have any concerns. This exercise may not be right for everyone.

Summary

For those with preexisting injuries that limit shoulder, knee, or hip flexibility, extra caution should be used when performing the DPP to avoid further injury.

Including the DPP in your exercise routine comes with several potential benefits.

Increased flexibility

While the push press is traditionally performed with a barbell, using dumbbells allows for increased flexibility throughout the movement.

This is especially helpful for those with limited shoulder and wrist mobility, as this push press version enables each arm to move freely.

In addition, it’s easier to incrementally increase the weight and effectively progress from workout to workout when using dumbbells.

Muscle groups worked

Considering that the dumbbell push press is a compound exercise, it works several muscle groups simultaneously.

As such, some muscles serve as the prime movers, providing most of the force, while others serve as stabilizers and support the prime movers.

Hamstrings

Your hamstrings assist in bending the knees during the dip portion of the movement and help stabilize the knee joints as you press the weight overhead.

Quads

The quads, located on the front part of your thigh, initiate the movement by generating momentum out of the dip by extending the knees.

Glutes

The glutes are essential at the bottom portion of the movement, aiding in explosive hip extension to carry the momentum generated by the quads.

Triceps

The triceps serves as one of the prime movers of the overhead pressing portion of the movement, working with the deltoids to extend your elbows.

Deltoids

The deltoids, or shoulder muscles, serve as the other prime mover of the overhead portion of the exercise. Out of the three heads of the deltoids — anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (back) — the anterior head is used most during the DPP.

Traps

The traps, located in your upper back, assist in stabilizing the weights when pressed overhead, ensuring good posture throughout the exercise.

Core

The muscles of your core, specifically the abs, spinal erectors, and obliques, work to stabilize your spine throughout the movement, allowing the exercise to be performed safely.

Improves whole body strength and power

Considering that the DPP is a compound exercise that works multiple muscles simultaneously, it can efficiently stimulate both upper and lower body strength and power development.

By using an explosive hip and knee extension at the bottom of the movement, you can improve lower body power over time.

In addition, the explosive overhead press portion of the exercise in which the anterior delts and triceps are used develops upper body power.

As you progress with the exercise and the weights become slightly heavier, the DPP becomes a viable strength-building stimulus when practiced in lower rep ranges of four to eight (1).

Calories burned

The number of calories burned when performing the dumbbell push press depends on several factors, including height, weight, sex, age, and level of fitness, as well as how many sets and repetitions you perform.

That said, a broad estimation can be made based on numbers from Harvard Health Publishing.

A person who weighs 185 pounds (83.9 kg) and performs 30 minutes of weightlifting exercises, such as the DPP, burns approximately 133 calories (2).

Meanwhile, a person who weighs 125 pounds (56.7 kg) and does the same exercise for 30 minutes, burns about 90 calories (2).

The DPP is usually completed in conjunction with other exercises, meaning that the overall calories burned during a given workout can be higher.

Summary

Performing the DPP comes with several potential benefits, including increased flexibility over the traditional push press, whole body muscle recruitment, calorie burning, and improved strength and power.

Depending on your current workout regimen, there are numerous exercises that you can perform alongside the DPP to optimize results. These include:

Including some of these exercises in addition to the DPP is an excellent way to create a balanced exercise routine that targets your whole body.

Summary

These complementary exercises can be performed alongside the DPP to promote whole body muscle and strength gains.

The DPP is an alternative to the traditional barbell push press in which two dumbbells are pressed overhead using a slight leg drive to develop momentum.

Benefits of the movement include improved flexibility over the traditional push press, whole body muscle recruitment, strength and power improvement, and calorie burning.

There are several complementary exercises that you can perform in addition to the DPP to create a balanced exercise regimen.

Just note that it’s important to use caution when first trying this exercise, especially for those with preexisting injuries. Some may need to avoid it altogether.

For those looking to try a new, effective exercise, the DPP may be a worthwhile addition to your workout regimen.